The origins of autism continue to elude scientists to this day, but studies on this at least point to the benefits of effective prenatal care. As reported by Associated Press writer Lindsey Tanner, the latest research on autism conducted at the University of California attracted a lot of expert attention as it implied that autism may have its origins in the womb:
“A SMALL STUDY THAT EXAMINED BRAINS FROM CHILDREN WHO DIED FOUND ABNORMAL PATTERNS OF CELL GROWTH IN AUTISTIC CHILDREN. THE RESEARCH BOLSTERS EVIDENCE THAT SOMETHING BEFORE BIRTH MIGHT CAUSE AUTISM, AT LEAST IN SOME CASES.”
While further studies are needed to validate the findings, it is clear that the prenatal stages in child development are indeed very critical. Small changes in protein intake and chemical balance (i.e. from tobacco smoke) in the mother’s body have been known to lead to consequences that can last through the child’s lifetime. On the flipside, this can also mean that changes arising from the right practices can encourage positive developments in the baby’s brain.
For example, some experts on neural development believe that prenatal music stimulation encourages neurogenesis, or the generation of neurons, in the hippocampus– the part of the brain responsible for managing a person’s memories and his or her spatial navigation. Damage to the hippocampus often leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Additional neurogenesis is a good thing because it introduces changes to the proteins found in the hippocampus, hopefully leading to improved memory retention.
There is still some debate, however, on the effectiveness of using music to stimulate positive brain development. Further research on the subject of prenatal education points to the more plausible effects of tone stimulation.
The BabyPlus program, for example, has been reviewed as the more effective prenatal education tool as it makes use of tonal patterns babies in the womb are certain to recognize. The system uses sounds that resemble a mother’s heartbeat, in increments appropriate to the baby’s prenatal development. As the baby is exposed to these sounds, he/she starts to recognize and distinguish patterns, which is a crucial first step in cognitive learning.
While the BabyPlus program makes for an excellent prenatal education system, pediatricians and gynecologists still encourage mothers to observe healthy practices, such as following a good diet, avoiding stressful activities, and refraining from alcohol. These are factors proven to affect babies’ brain development. In other words, it’s very important for mothers to adopt a holistic approach in prenatal care, and make healthy choices every day.
(Source: Autism may be linked to faulty prenatal brain growth in at least some kids, small study says, The Montreal Gazette, March 27, 2014)
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